I am always reading. Novels, nonfiction, biographies, essays, short stories. If a title or subject grabs my interest, I put the book on hold at my local library. I just finished reading a parenting book called, The Happiest Kids in the World. This nonfiction book was written by two women, one American and the other British, who were both married to Dutch men and living in the Netherlands with their kids.

At first both women experienced quite the culture shock. It seemed that the entire way of life was completely different in the Netherlands, especially raising children. But as they learned more about Dutch family life, they discovered several factors that contributed to the overall happiness quotient scientists have long observed among Dutch children.

The key take-away is that Dutch parents adhere to the phrase, Doe maar gewoon ("Just act normal!"). The common adage applies to staying grounded. No showing off or bragging. No competition over school test scores or report card grades. Practicality in clothing, household furnishings and vacation destinations (camping) seem to be the norm. Dutch families prioritize eating breakfast and dinner together at home.

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The book's authors highlight a few reasons why Dutch kids grow up happy. One fun fact is that Dutch children enjoy a daily breakfast treat called hagelslag (bread and butter topped with chocolate sprinkles). Pre-schools are play-based and elementary school students do not have homework. Children of all ages are encouraged to play outdoors in all seasons. Children, teens and adults bicycle to school, work and grocery shopping (even in the rain!) which makes for rosy cheeks and robust constitutions.
The common sense theme of doe maar gewoon certainly applies when parents select baby names. In the Netherlands, the most popular names are Julia, Emma, Tess and Sophie for girls and Lucas, Noah, Levi and Finn for boys. Dutch parents would never consider choosing outlandish baby names.

In a newspaper article I read recently, a couple in Iceland were forbidden from naming their new baby, Lucifer. Apparently, Iceland has some of the strictest naming laws in the world. The Icelandic Naming Committee must decide whether an unusual name is acceptable. Parents typically choose baby names from a pre-authorized list of names. If the parents want a name that is not on the list, they must apply for permission from the Icelandic Naming Committee.

For example, Anna and Kristin are the most popular names for girls in Iceland. The most common name for Icelandic boys is Jon. So when this couple applied for permission to name their baby boy, Lucifer, they were turned down for two reasons. The name was rejected, "Since the name Lucifer is one of the Devil's names, the Naming Committee believes it could cause the bearer embarrassment." The second reason is because the name does not conform to the Icelandic language since the Icelandic alphabet does not contain the letter c.

In the United States, practically anything goes for parents who decide to hamper their newborns with bizarre monikers. It is illegal to name your kid Messiah or Adolph Hitler in the U.S. However, as of 2017, there are at least ten baby boys named Lucifer across the nation.

Remember years ago when musician Frank Zappa named two of his kids Moon Unit and Dweezil? Unusual celebrity baby names include Raddix, Gravity, Apple, Banjo, Pilot Inspektor, and Zuma. Believe it or not, the name Abcde has been given to 328 baby girls in the U.S. between 1990 and 2014.

Avocado sounds like a lovely name, don't you agree?

Kim Kovach is thrilled to have written 100 weekly columns so far!  Thank you for all of the positive reader feedback! www.kimkovachwrites.com